Sunday, November 11, 2007

Foolish Words 2007

The entire shooting match! Here's the edited version, from start to finish, as it progressively appeared in Bozeman's Tributary magazine from May through December 2007. A special thank you goes out to Tributary editor Corinne Garcia for welcoming this nonsense year after year.

Part 1 - Tributary, May 2007

This year’s Foolish Words got off to a mile-high, mile-low start with poet/gardener Sam Louden taking the story straight off to the Richest Hill on Earth, setting the literal/metaphorical stage for “Butte, the Musical.” Poet Liz McRae took the story a mile higher, with the introduction of the Tibetan-linked producer.

Sam Louden

“This is my idea, see?” said Lenny. He could sell lonesomeness to Ekalakans. He could talk the pants off a nun. He was smooth and persuasive. He was also ugly as all hell.
“I don’t want to hear it,” said Virginia, grabbing a firm hold of her pants.
“Musicals! People love musicals. They love to gag at their ridiculous sentimentality. They love to point out the absurdity of people breaking out into song — in harmony, with dancing. People love to pretend they hate musicals, but they can’t get enough of them,” he said.
“I’m skeptical.”
Lenny expounded on the need for Butte to have yet another blue ribbon tourist attraction. He continued with how the glorious city needed — deserved — an emotional pick-me-up. He concluded with the saliva of sincerity dripping from his malformed mouth: “Yes, Butte, whose history begs for the honor it long ago earned in sweat and blood and has so long been denied; this Butte, my Butte, our Butte; our majestic, beautiful Butte is the miracle it has waited for!”
Virgnia wordlessly begged for the miracle. It would take organizational skills Lenny lacked. Virginia, however, was practically made of organizational skills. She had developed a formula to determine anyone’s personal sock needs. She was ridden out of Helena on a rail for demonstrating shortcuts through red tape that could eliminate hundreds of state bureaucratic jobs. She trimmed out nearly fifty percent of her own useless DNA. Holy Butte would rise from the ashes, borne by the silk of Virginia Sullivan’s networking and Lenny Crenshaw’s hot air.
In minutes Virginia had secured two theater venues, acquired the necessary permits from her cousin Eddie in City Hall, and enlisted the support of the unions. Lenny sat gaping in awe of the presence of excellence.
“Can you find me producers?” he asked.
“There isn’t enough loose capital here to float a Sunday school skit,” said Virginia.
“Do you know anyone in Bozeman?“

Liz McRae

Virginia closed her eyes and imagined a floating Rolodex before her. Lenny watched, mesmerized as she raised up her arms and flicked her fingers in front of her face like some sort of off-the-hook administrative assistant. She feverishly flipped through her 400 nonprofit connections in Bozeman. No, she thought, we need cash, not the under-funded, liberal crowd. And then she hit ‘F’. Virginia opened her eyes, looked Lenny as straight in his crooked face as possible, and said, “I think I’ve got our man.”
Virginia had come to Irwin Finklestein. The image of this eccentric, Jewish New Yorker flashed before her as she last saw him: standing in front of a window fan in his Manhattan apartment, long gray hair blowing in all directions, leopard skin briefs - whoa. The image wasn’t all that appealing. A downside to channeling contact people was that you always got that last vision of them.
Irwin was a scholar of ancient Tibetan script, specialized in growing rare orchids, and was Virginia’s former lover. He lived between his apartment in downtown Manhattan and an old, renovated grain tower outside of Bozeman. Like many Tibetan scholars and rare orchid growers, Irwin had a sizable trust fund and was highly connected in NYC. Also notable, she explained to Lenny, was his production of the very popular Oklahoma performance in Lhasa – the only Western musical of its kind performed entirely by Tibetans for Tibetans.
Lenny’s mind was scheming like a whirling dervish. Visions of Virginia as the next David Copperfield blended with saffron-robed monks yodeling and dancing across his Butte stage. People would come from China, New York, maybe even from the Yellowstone Club to visit and fall in love with the land of pulchritude and plenty, Butte! He was nearly in tears with visions of fame, money and people bursting into song.

Stayed tuned for future installments of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 2 - Tributary, June 2007

The Foolish Words 2007 odyssey continues! The reins of the second installment have been taken over by freelance writer and editor Heidi Lasher, and poet, playwright, comedy writer, and sports columnist Craig Kenworthy.
When we left off last month, Lenny and Virginia had joined forces to make a musical to save Butte — but where to find the money to produce it? Why, Bozeman, of course, home to orchid-growing Tibetan scholar Irwin Finkelstein.

Heidi Lasher

Irwin leapt from his chair and twirled with delight. “My Pangolin! She LIVES!” he exclaimed. His index finger circled his iPod, landing quickly on “O What a Beautiful Morning” by the dashing and flamboyant Jengbu Lakhpa. He shook his hair loose from its rubber band, and held the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to his cheek. Wearing nothing but his leopard-skin briefs, he pirouetted in front of the picture window and giggled in anticipation.
For nearly 12 days Irwin had scanned the Bozeman police blotter for news about the rare and scaly anteater he’d rescued from a Chinese restaurant in Lhasa. He shuttered, remembering how the poor creature had been dying a slow death in a cage, losing up to six scales a day to greedy customers eager to enhance their sexual performance by drinking tea spiked with her potent scurf. Moved by the animal’s dismal existence and the sense that he could provide a better life for her (and perhaps a more lasting sexual state of arousal for himself), he devised a plan to rescue her like he’d done for so many other reptiles in the past.
For the past month, Irwin safely harbored the Pangolin in his renovated grain tower apartment in Bozeman. With love, plenty of fresh, local, organic ants and water, her scales grew back to their God-given glory. Irwin, too, began to heal the emotional scars of his previous relationship, pouring his pain and humiliation of their last sexual encounter into a deep and soulful song called “O Virginia.”
Then, one night, without warning, the reptile vanished. Every day since, Irwin had combed the neighborhoods, calling her name. His devout prayer was that a neighbor would spot her and call the police. And today his prayer had been answered. The Pangolin was spotted by the dishwashing staff at the Panda Buffet, scuttling across the parking lot.
Irwin pulled a saffron robe over his head and grabbed his Sorels. Just as he was walking out the door, the phone rang.

Craig Kenworthy

After three hours, Irwin finally gave in and bought the mortgage disability insurance. Fortunately, he had call-waiting and spent fifteen minutes of that time talking with Virginia.
That girl had nerve, calling him for a favor after what she’d done to him. But any show that included two different troupes of blind acrobats reenacting a mining disaster and the exhumation of the body of the late Bob Keeshan, a.k.a. Captain Kangaroo, was a show he wanted to be a part of. He hit 666 on his speed dial and called his former partner, Squids Guggenheim.
Squids loved the idea of a musical set in Montana; he loved it so much that just the week before he’d sunk all of his money into a new play called “Custer slept here… forever,“ by an up and coming Native American playwright.
“Listen, Irwin, I can’t help you but I know a guy in Big Timber who might. His name is Still Bottled Water. Runs a small family foundation that supports the arts. Some of their standards for grants are a little strange. You don’t happen to have an anteater, do you?”
After a quick trip to Panda Buffet, Irwin finished perusing the foundation guidelines. Only using compact fluorescent bulbs in the footlights? Still, he thought his proposal had merit, based on his digital photo of an anteater — although he wasn’t really clear on why the foundation insisted that the animal be wearing only high heels and a pioneer bonnet.
Irwin finished proofreading the grant application and clicked “Send.” He went downstairs to look in on his cold-blooded guest. As he entered the reptile’s room, Irwin smelled moderately priced perfume and felt a damp breeze. Looking up at the shattered glass of the skylight, he spotted a woman’s leg disappearing through the opening. He leaped up to grab it, then remembered he was only five foot four and should never have put a vaulted ceiling in the laundry room. By the time he returned with the extension ladder, the foot was gone, but he found a note lying on the floor. His palms adrift in sweat, Irwin read it over and then read it again. The note contained only ten words, but they were words that no sane person ever wants to see.

Stay tuned next month for part three of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 3 - Tributary, July 2007

The Foolish Words 2007 epic continues, with our heroes desperate to produce the surefire theatrical sensation, “Butte, The Musical.” When last we left, loinskin-clad producer Irwin Finkelstein was checking up on the illicit pangolin he had been harboring in his grain-elevator abode. This month, author/veterinarian Sid Gustafson takes over the typewriter, but not before freelance writer/herbalist Rebecca A. Kinman picks up where comedy writer Craig Kenworthy left us last month: with a note containing ten words “that no sane person ever wants read.” Read on, Foolish Words fans, we dare you:

Rebecca A. Kinman

"Take the garbage out and unclog the bathroom drain. - Mom"

Irwin felt a moment of remorse for allowing his mother to live in the PVC pipe tree house outside. He also regretted connecting the two houses with a swinging bridge. To Irwin's further dismay, he found that the lizard's swimming pool, cappuccino machine and hair-rollers had yet to be used, and the pangolin herself, Sweet Banana Tail II, had vanished once again.
Irwin paced the house, calling her name to the melody of Rain Drops Falling on My Head, but then jumped into his hot pink helicopter and searched Peete's Hill and beyond for his precious darling. He called Virginia with the news.
"Irwin, you KNOW how those scaly things always take off whenever you mention my name,” said Virginia, rolling her eyes. It reminded her of the time that Irwin took her to the Bistro wearing a polka-dotted boa and cat-eye glasses. The pet was so jealous that she skipped town and was found three days later singing karaoke at the Owl in Livingston.
The current situation wasn't all that different. Sweet Banana Tail II was fed up with Irwin's lack of decency to forget their twelfth anniversary (in pangolin years).
She scurried west on 1-90, sensing she would come closer to achieving her dream. She didn't need Irwin any longer, she had her strength and her trusty book entitled "From The Cage to the Red Carpet: How to Succeed as an Exotic Pet Actress." She confidently ran down the highway as semi trucks and multi-colored Hummers with ski racks wailed past her.
Snow began to flitter down around her double-jointed ankles, and soon she was covered in two feet of slush. She gradually moved slower and slower down the Interstate until she came to a complete, cold-blooded stop.
Even though Sweet Banana Tail II was almost completely frozen, she managed to spot a large mass in the distance slowly approaching.

Sid Gustafson

Before she could see what it was, Sweet Banana had identified the crawling creature with her vomeronasal gland. It was none other than her old nemesis, the dogwoman from the Heel of the Valley Animal League. Evidently someone had reported what had been perceived to be a dazed, lost Lhasa waltzing down I-90… but then Banana did have her Tibetan roots.
Banana was bagged and in the trunk. In the quarantine ward at the pound, the animal officer picked up an electronic ID bleep under Banana’s mange-riddled hide, which was traced to Irwin’s address at his silo flat. Next thing Banana found herself in the tree house with a bowl of maggots.
The following morning, Irwin was on the phone with Bottled StillWater (his real name, in the proper Absaroka order). Bad news. StillWater discovered the play had been written to good affect by a failing horse doctor, and previously produced at High Horse University in Dillon — sell-out cowboy crowds for a three-week run. “Stole the thunder plum away from Butte.”
“Couldn’t be,” cried Irwin. “Virginia swears her pal Lenny wrote it all his self.”
“Nope,” said StillWater. “That Lenny’s a literary thief with a faux bibliography long as a pangolin tail. The horse doctor had himself a hit in Dillon, and later in Dell on the Red Rock River.”
“Are you sure it’s the same play?”
“Same play, same clowny, cowboy plot,” said StillWater.
“What about the music?”
“I didn’t hear the music. Can’t read music.”
“Well, can’t we just change the music, if that’s the case?” asked Irwin.
“I suppose we could. We could change the words too, as long as we’re at it. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.”
“Well jeez, let’s do that. Change the words, write the music.” “Any ideas who might accomplish that?” asked StillWater.
“No problema. There’s enough deluded writers hanging about the Seed and Bean coffeehouse to have a circus, and all those ring-nosed musicians strumming away just outside the door — I’m talking tattoo talent.”
“Well, let’s get down there and see what kind of creativity we can resurrect. Maybe we’ll find some actors sipping lattes to script in, too. Maybe we can turn this keyboarding charade into something real, a real play, with live music and actors. Something like art.”
“We’ll have those Willson and Main juggernauts write a play, find some strummers to strum in, drag actor folk off the street, and turn this into a real production behind a real script,” declared Irwin.
“See you down there in an hour.” StillWater, Montana-CoffeeHouse-AmericanIndian-PlayProducer he was, fired up his Pontiac and headed to BozAngeles.

Stay tuned next month for part four of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 4 - Tributary, August 2007

When last we left Foolish Words 2007, “Butte, the Musical” was ramping up pre-production. Producers Irwin Finkelstein and Bottled Stillwater realized that to make the musical a reality, they had to hit up Montana’s primary talent hangout: Bozeman’s Seedy Bean Coffeehouse.
This month, freelance writer/editor Marjorie Smith and playwright/improv comedian Ryan Cassavaugh take you deep within the dark and squalid belly of the Seedy Bean.

Marjorie Smith

Donna Lou deChris hurried to the Seedy Bean immediately after work, as she did every day. She ordered her hazelnut latte, put on her shades and slouched into her regular chair at her regular table with the insouciance she knew marked her as very experienced.
She recalled her childhood naiveté when she had spent every daylight hour in the front yard looking cute, waiting for Samuel Goldwyn Mayer to drive by and recognize her as the next Shirley Temple. She had learned a great deal about geography in the interim. Now, at 25, she knew that a front yard in Absaroka, Montana, was no place to be discovered. The Seedy Bean on Main Street in Bozeman – that’s where producers hung out.
In the Rolodex of her mind, she flipped through memories of her stint as a film actress three years ago when an intense young man who needed to replace a cast member in his junior film had approached her at this very table. “I originally saw this part as being for an old man,” he told her. “But I think I can use you.”
It had been the most wonderful experience of her life. The whole thing – the days of filming on snowy Bozeman streets wearing soggy bedroom slippers and ugly knee high stockings, the student makeup artist patting powder on her fevered brow… and, of course, the intensely passionate if brief love affair with the author-director, Gary Geek.
“Ah, Gary,” Donna Lou sighed, closing her eyes, reliving scenes of unbridled passion. Oh, why did she have to be such a nitpicker! She just couldn’t let him go through life under the mistaken impression that anteaters were reptiles. She’d screamed at him right out there on Main Street: “Tits, Gary! They have tits!”
Gary Geek had strode away from her, never to return. She knew he had gone on to graduate and hightailed it to Hollywood where he would one day be famous, or at least employed. And here she sat, at the same table in the Seedy Bean, waiting to be discovered.
A large tear oozed out of her brown eye and plopped into her latte. As she opened her eyes to search for a Kleenex, there, standing beside her table, were two men.
“Excuse me,” said that smaller man. “Are you by any chance an actress?”

Ryan Cassavaugh

The question sent Donna Lou’s mind reeling back thorough the years, to when she had first been asked that question. She was on-stage in a high school production of “Annie Get Your Gun… Again!”, an ill-conceived and short-lived sequel to the popular stage musical. Her drama teacher had posed the question as he flung a toasted sesame-seed bagel at her head.
“Are you an actress?” he had asked. “Because you give the impression of a tone-deaf cow in high-heeled slippers having a seizure!”
The question confused Donna Lou, since she was, in fact, playing a tone-deaf cow in high-heeled slippers having a seizure. To this day she was still unsure if the comment was a compliment or an insult.
“I think she’s deaf,” the taller man said, staring at Donna Lou with a look that straddled the fine line between pity and annoyance.
“Pity,” said the small man. “She would have been perfect for the part of the mining pit.”
The taller man smiled a pleasant smile and nodded; the two men moved away both shaking their heads.
Donna tried to yell, “Wait, come back!” but the words didn’t come. She was paralyzed with anticipation. This was her big break, she knew it. Why couldn’t she say anything? They were leaving. Worse… they were going to another table. To Patti Ponderfund’s table. Patti was Donna’s arch-nemesis, or at least Donna thought so. Patti was the lead in all the local productions. She had even been in a national commercial for a line of vegetarian pet food. She had an entire line: “Cats don’t know it’s not real fish!” She said it directly into the camera. The thought of it made Donna Lou queasy. Patti was going to get Donna’s big break. It wasn’t fair. This was Donna’s break, not Patti’s. She had to do something! Why couldn’t she speak? Time almost stopped. Donna watched as the two men inched closer to Patti’s table. In an instant Patti would see them and smile that million-dollar smile at them and it would be all over. It was now or never, Donna had to act… that’s when it hit her.
Of course! There was only one thing she could do…

Stay tuned next month for Part Five of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 5 - September 2007

In the last installment of Foolish Words 2007, Donna Lou deChris agonized as producers Irwin Finkelstein and Bottled StillWater proceeded toward Donna's arch-nemesis, Patti Ponderfund, to hand out the lead role for “Butte, the Musical.”
Donna had to act. What would she do?
This month, freelance writer, poet, and poetry-dispenser originator Michele Corriel has the answer. And award-winning playwright, Broad Comedy co-author, and Equinox Theater executive director Soren Kisiel has more wacky shenanigans than a Butte-Irish wake.

Michele Corriel

Donna opened her mouth, and her humongous set of tonsils began to whirr. She reached deep inside herself for a word, a sound, anything to get the attention of the small man and the tall producer. As her mouth opened wider, people began to cling to the Seedy Bean’s overstuffed chairs and under-upholstered couches. But it was too late. The vacuum effect had begun.
Holding their hands over their faces, careful to avoid the flying chai, StillWater and Irwin made their way over to Donna, who had the good sense to close her mouth.
“My God, she’s perfect as the Berkeley Pit!” Irwin said.
Just then, who should walk into the Seedy Bean but Virginia herself, accompanied by none other than Sweet Banana Tail. And they were laughing.
Irwin was bewildered. His finger wagged back and forth between the two of them. He knew Virginia’s history with reptiles and this wasn’t making any sense.
“Anteaters, even giant pangolins from Uganda, are not and never were reptiles,” she said to Irwin. “So don’t even start with me. Besides, I’ve found I have a soft spot for mammals that can roll themselves into balls. Me and Sweet Banana Tail have a lot in common.” And they both made noises that no mammal should ever have to listen to.
Irwin was intrigued. But Virginia, the human Rolodex, got back to business.
“What’s this I hear about changing our script?” she asked.
“It’s true. We here in BozAngeles decided to find us some talent, rewrite that piece of crap you sent us, and get the show on the road, so to speak,” Irwin said, now staring at Donna, who had stolen his heart. He was done with reptiles. His life was now all about a woman who had the lung capacity of a submarine.
“Just hold your damn horses, there,” Virginia said, unwillingly removing her eyes from Sweet Banana Tail. “I checked the Internet’s Suburban Legends site and that failing horse doctor in Dillon is nothing but a big myth. He never wrote anything except a boring account of breach horse births at the turn of the century. The guy’s as phony as an Indian arrowhead found at the Buffalo Jump. As a matter of fact there isn’t even a High Horse University…”
Just at that moment who should walk into the Seedy Bean but...

Soren Kisiel

A plumber.
Plumber by day, that is. Plumber through the cracked-pipe frozen January mornings below the streets of Butte. Plumber through the soul-stealing corroded-copper afternoons of Butte’s sweating August. Plumber by day, but Irish Fairy by night.
The Irish Fairies, the toughest ethnically-based street-gang in Butte since the “Uptown Danny-Boys” of the 1950s. The Irish Fairies, who once threw one of
their own into The Pit just for mentioning that he was also Scottish. The Irish Fairies, so tough that no one in all the years of The M&M’s existence ever once cracked a joke about their name. Yep, those Irish Fairies.
The Plumber popped his thick knuckles, the forward motion of his hands straining the shoulders of his green polyester blazer. Across his chest “Kiss Me I’m
Irish” leered like a threat. He revealed teeth inlaid with golden shamrocks.
“Which a’ ye is Irwin?” the Plumber asked. He had never been to Ireland, but his grandmother’s accent had moved though his umbilical cord and deep into his
soul. His voice was high, scraping Irwin’s brain with its fingernails. “Which a’ ye bastards is selling Butte’s heart to Bozeman?”
Silence spread through the Seedy Bean.
“Which a’ ye is it that believes that the bold, wild, unruly soul of Mother Butte – the finest city west of Galway – needs these leather-furniture-buying fleece-wearers to help it stand on its own two damn feet?”
Donna saw her chance. Whatever this artist’s, this genius’, this Irwin’s past – oddly-reptilian mammals, fraudulent claims of plagiarism, Native American grant-makers – she knew she was his future.
She stepped forward, drawing air into her greatest asset. The air poured out, lovingly, bravely: “I’m Irwin.”
Irwin’s head snapped around. His first thought - “I get to keep all my teeth” – was quickly swept away by a surge of emotion. Could this be what he had been looking for in those cold, semi-reptilian features for so many years? When he’d first laid eyes on Donna all he saw were those mismatched eyes, that lumpy nose, that unibrow. Now all he could think of was things he wanted to do with that gaping mouth.
A voice spoke behind him: “No, I’m Irwin.”
He turned. There Virginia stood, gently stroking the pangolin’s scales, eyes defiantly holding the Irish Fairy’s.
“No,” spoke a male voice. “I’m Irwin.” StillWater’s braids danced around his shoulders as he held his head high.
Silence fell over the Seedy Bean, all eyes on the Plumber.
“So that’s the way is it then, is it? Ya bunch of bleedin’ tossers. You think you can beat the Irish Fairies, do ya? You don’t know how we beat the fish-and-chips out of the Great Falls Leprechauns, or the way we pounded the Gilette Pennywhistle Gang all the way back into Wyoming for stealing Fergus’ mushy peas recipe! You Bozeman Irwins are nothin’ compared to them!”
Delight danced in the Plumber’s green eyes as he scanned the room. “You’ll not get away with this. No one will produce a musical about my beloved Butte – no
one that doesn’t live there, breathe her air, drink her water. No one will make a feel-good family experience out of dearest Butte without including among its theatrical delights a bit of its history: the Screaming Panda bit.”
Irwin’s nerve rose in him like fire. He looked to Donna – my Lord, that mouth – and found bravery in her eyes. He stepped forward.
“Sir, my name is Irwin. And while I happen to live in Bozeman, I actually was planning to include the Screaming Panda bit.”

Stay tuned next month for part six of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 6 - October 2007

A Seedy Bean showdown loomed large in the last installment of Foolish Words 2007, as the Plumber from Butte threatened to take on all the Seedy Bean’s leather-furniture-buying fleece-wearers to find Irwin, the one who would sell Butte’s heart to Bozeman for the sake of funding a musical.
This month, Livingston poet/storyteller/singer Polyestra, a.k.a. Susan Connell, gives the story the fetid aroma of imminent disaster, and screenwriter, actor, and KGLT “Coffee Show” host Keith Suta shows how a simple vowel movement could alter Bozeman’s fate forever.


Irwin's mother sat alone in her tree house, and extinguished her cigar out in the “80” written on her birthday cake in bleeding red icing.
"Foolish boy," she said.
She moved along the rope ladder like a whip snake into the vaulted laundry room, and retrieved her special “going out” turban from the dryer. Back in her treehome, she sat before a candle, closed her eyes halfway, and began to levitate.
"Foolish boy spending my money on this overpriced Bozeman dump," she hissed, hovering two feet off the floor. Her astral body peeled off and shot like a bolt over the land to the Berkeley Pit.
"Hello little lovely," she said to the angry wound below. The bright red stinking liquid stared back at her with words emanating from its burned mouth, like: “Arsenic and sulfuric acid and pH level of 2.5.”
"Soon, it will be soon,” she said.
Her stiff little body hovered along above the road to Uptown, where she met her friend Bob, astrally visiting from Jackson Hole, for lunch.
"He forgot my birthday because he's trying to make another stupid Montana movie," Irwin's mother said.
"The pit is going to breach," Bob said.
"Yes, soon.”
"That stretch of track in the mine was especially steep," said a man at the next table. “A panda like that didn't have a chance."
All the dishes in the restaurant began to tinkle and vibrate and tip over edges. The astral travelers shot out of the roof and over to the Pit.
"It will melt all the inhabitants of Butte," Bob said.
"I'll use my turban to divert it.”
Laser-like rays beamed from the two elders' eyes, lifting a wave of red acid up onto I-90. As Hummers popped and dissolved like effervescent sugar cubes, flocks of ducks and geese hovering above the heavy metal-saturated liquid turned north to land on the asbestos piles in Shelby instead.
As the last drop of red digestive juices joined the tidal wave heading east on I-90...

Keith Suta

...Lenny sat in front of his computer, studying the final draft of his musical masterpiece. He reasoned that no musical masterpiece to date had included a section of endnotes, and since so few musicals were truly masterpieces, surely the missing element was a comprehensive historical bibliography.
Upon final annotation of the Screaming Panda Incident - including the Time Magazine coverage and Edward R. Murrow commentary - Lenny sat back and poured himself a hearty glass of Midori as a treat for a job well done.
Lenny's cell phone rang. It was Virginia, calling from the Seedy Bean.
"I'm sorry, Virginia, you'll have to speak up..." The call was on the verge of being dropped when the Bozeman City Council hurriedly erected another cell phone tower. Lenny caught the end of Virginia’s statement:
"...cannot believe they don't serve termite lattes here."
"Termites?" inquired Lenny. "Aren't you kosher?"
"Of course I am, Lenny, but pangolins are notoriously finicky in their dietary needs."
The rest of the conversation was lost with a sudden scream emanating from a corner of the Seedy Bean.
Irwin and the Plumber from Butte had agreed to settle their dispute via a game of Scrabble, the winner of which would receive the right to stage the play wherever he saw fit. Not three minutes into the game, it became apparent that the coffee house's Scrabble set was lacking three D tiles and no end of vowels. The Plumber stared forlornly at a rack holding F, N, X, P, Z, and L as Irwin placed down letters spelling "perspicacity" for a Triple Word Score of 69 plus a bonus of 50 for using all seven of his tiles. Seeing as how "perspicacity" contains twelve letters, the Plumber began to suspect that the fix was in. He picked up his rack and flung it square at Irwin's solar plexus, screaming, "I've a moind ta smash yer
face into that display of attractive and reasonably-proiced gift oitems fer such fourberie!"
That particular moment was when the acidic tidal wave wiped out
Montana's Central Cellular Phone Communications Center in Whitehall. Pizzas were suddenly half-ordered, rendezvous were only partially completed, and thousands of overly public conversations were suddenly silenced. Virginia closed her phone, sat down, and wondered how any creative project can take form without a cell phone.
Sweet Banana Tail II waddled over to console Virginia by sharing her ant latte – which, fortunately, had been on the menu.

What next? Stay tuned next month for part seven of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 7 - November 2007

In the last installment of Foolish Words 2007, Lenny and the Irish Plumber decided to settle their differences with a Seedy Bean Scrabble showdown, while Irwin’s mother traveled astrally to Butte to breach the mighty Berkeley Pit - because her ungrateful son forgot her birthday. When we left, a toxic tidal wave was heading up and over the Continental Divide on its way to Bozeman.
This month, Equinox Theatre/Broad Comedy founder Katie Goodman adds an immortal element to the tale, while writer/massage therapist Liz Allen lets us wade in the Berkeley Pit’s free-flowing river of ferredentin.

Katie Goodman

“A musical?” Adonai, The One Who Cannot Be Named, asked.
“Yeah,” Jesus said, thoughtfully. “It’s worked before. Look at what Menopause The Musical did for Orlando.”
“Orlando already had a few things going for it, financially speaking,” Shiva said smugly, always the one who had to be right.
“It might work,” Adonai said, popping a piece of pickled herring into his mouth.
“Yes, let’s not judge too quickly,” Jesus said.
“You always say that,” White Buffalo Woman snapped. She was tired from recent appearances.
“I thought we were just going to write off Butte,” Shiva sulked. “Let the damn thing destroy itself and fall away to dust. That’s such the obvious answer.”
Adonai shrugged his shoulders, palms up, eyes squinting like his grandmother used to do. “Look, they need a hand. They asked. Their intentions are pure… Plus I owe Finkelstein.”
Buddha perked up: “For what?” He was so damn quiet. It was unsettling. Everyone preferred it when he spoke up occasionally.
“Um,” said Adonai. “I’d rather not say.”
St. Patrick was taking all this in. He was chewing on some road-kill beef jerky White Buffalo Woman had brought for everyone. The stuff got stuck in your teeth like nothing else.
“I don’t think we should get involved,” he said. “We’ve got several warring factions here and it’s getting hard to tell them apart. We don’t want another Middle East.”
“Or middle west!” laughed Bacchus, lamely trying to lighten the mood.
“That is sooooo not the middle west, you moron. It’s the West,” chided White Buff, as her girlfriends called her.
“It’s all the West, out there,” Shiva snipped. “West, west, west.”
“All right, all right! Enough!” Adonai shouted, shushing everyone into a shamed silence. “So, what should we do? Consensus says…?”
The one who hadn’t spoken yet sat up:

Liz Allen

“We cannot interfere. I have to admit these mortals are damned entertaining,” Ullr quipped. “Besides, I don’t feel like snowing.”
Not wanting to further the argument or make another dreaded appearance, all the immortals simply gazed back into the circling blue orb.
“Blixseth development hour on XM radio?” Lenny’s cousin Jane murmured from her motorcycle somewhere near the Continental Divide. She wasn’t supposed to be listening on the job, but she despised giving speeding tickets.
Uncannily, Jane’s spiritual growth had recently burst forth, like so much Burning Man apparel riding a Nevada dust storm. Her secret admirers at the station had watched in awe as she patiently fanned these writings, these pontifications, into a not-unpleasantly-fulfilling “way-of-being.”
“No one insults Cormac McCarthy!” Daddy’s sugar-lump was spewing these horrible, righteous, and assuredly judgmental statements.
“I must sit in my zendo for at least four hours tonight,” she told herself. “I will cleanse.”
Just then, Sweet Banana Tail II jetted across I-90, suddenly ending up in Jane’s surprised arms.
“What the… Who are you?”
Her preoccupation with her own filth blinded Jane to the first blast of light that licked the edges of the putrid soup spewing from the Pit. It seemed to be pouring out of the dusky sky.
“What the bejesus? Sweet lord…” With the reflexes of a newly trained CIA Official Guantanamo Interrogator and more than five times the mental prowess, Jane fired up her ride and started the horrific flight east to Whitehall, with Banana Tail riding sidesaddle.
Her motorcycle squealing to a stop on the roof of Bob’s Auto Barn, Jane took quick note of the hungry toxic stew’s work on the Montana Central Cellular Phone Communications Center.
The soup hissed and bubbled, encircling its next victim – an 8-foot-tall knapweed fence. As the knapweed smoked, Deputy Max joined Jane on the roof.
Max swallowed the lump in his throat. “Sweet child of mine, is that a free-flowing river of ferredentin?”
“My evil thoughts created this river of bile!” Jane swooned.
“Is this meth?”
“All this time, I was creating my own reality… I didn’t even get it…” Jane trailed off.
“Is there more scripture transcription tonight?” Deputy Max meekly pondered. “I don’t feel so well with that medical lookin’ river comin’ at me.”
“I’m gettin’ out of the force, Max, starting right now!” Jane ripped her badge from her vest.
Glancing at the badge one last time, Jane remembered her inspiration – her cousin Lenny. She held onto the badge.
“I’ll play a cop in his new play, and meditate in my time off,” she decided.
Sweet Banana Tail II approved. With her highly tuned telepathic powers, her silent call vibrated out to Virginia, her new love, with a request:
“Ant latte – with soy.”
A mix-up in Banana Tail’s telepathy produced an odd result: With the power of a pit bull protecting a trailer, a sudden dust storm blew in the Irish Fairies. Their fists clenching and unclenching signified a grave situation....

What could that grave situation be? Stay tuned next month for the final installment of Foolish Words 2007!

Part 8 - Conclusion - December 2007

When last we left our fearless Foolish Wordsters, a toxic river of ferredentin was making its way from Butte's Berkeley Pit to Bozeman, promising destruction of our fair city. To top it off, Butte's ferocious Irish Fairies gang was threatening the would-be producers of “Butte, The Musical” in Bozeman's Seedy Bean Coffeehouse.
Freelance writer and Foolish Words editor Ray Sikorski picks up where we left off – the Irish Fairies fists clenching and unclenching signified a grave situation....

…and their toes tapping and heels clicking signified an authentic sense of rhythm.
They had not come to Bozeman to rumble. They had come to Bozeman to audition.
They intoned, from high to low, and went into their rendition of “It’s a Long Way From Clare to Here.” A hush fell upon the Seedy Bean. Those Irish Fairies could harmonize. They even had matching outfits. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“You guys are in!” yelled Lenny. Irwin and Bottled Stillwater grunted their approval.
“The male lead shall go to me,” demanded the Plumber. “For I am the most charming Irish Fairy in all of Uptown Butte. I can dance the Riverdance, and I can sing from me heart so sweetly, why, the fair Lady of the Rockies herself would come down for a listen.”
Mumblings arose from both the over- and under-upholstered seats of the Seedy Bean. “Prove it!” the crowd yelled.
“It would be me pleasure,” said the Plumber. “I shall sing this song as a tribute to me plumber’s helper, Danny.
“’Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…”
The Seedy Bean patrons put down their cups. Even the milk steamer was silent. And way, way off in the distance – 81 miles away, to be exact – one could discern the faint yet unmistakable percussion of massive stone footsteps.
Just then Jane and the rest of police burst in to the coffeeshop. “The Berkeley Pit is coming down the Insterstate,” she cried. “It’s headed for Bozeman!”
Tables overturned, coffee went flying. The Irish Fairies urged calm. “The water in the pit isn’t bad for ye,” one said. “Me brothers and me drink it all the time. Keeps ye young.”
The police tried to settle the crowd. “He may be right!” Jane said. “What we need is a guinea pig to go out there and test it. And, if we can’t find a guinea pig, I hear a pangolin will work in a pinch.”
Sweet Banana Tail’s ears perked up at that. She put down her latte, wiping the ant residue off her upper proboscis. “I’ll be freakin’ damned if I’m going out there,” she said.
Off in the distance, the footsteps grew louder. And sploshier.
“Oh, dair, she’s a comin’ all righty,” said the Plumber. “Sounds like she’s walking along the Interstate. She’ll be a’trompin’ in the Pit water, and I fear she won’t be wearin’ her irrigation boots.”
“Sir, let me get this right,” said Jane. “Along with the floodwaters of the Berkely Pit, the giant Our Lady of the Rockies statue is headed to Bozeman?”
“Aye, and she’s hoppin’ mad! Oh, and that Pit water will make her grow, a kilometer if she’s an inch. And that’s no Blarney!”
Half the crowd went into a panic - too much caffeine. The other half, who also had too much caffeine, started brainstorming.
“I know, we’ll fight her with an enormous icon of our own!”
“What have we got?”
“Uh, how ‘bout the ‘M’?”
“But that’s just a big letter 'm'! Can it fight?”
“Comes in handy in Scrabble.”
“I know!” said Lenny. “We’ll film it. It’ll be the greatest new reality show ever – part Cops, part Survivor, part American Idol, and part America’s Funniest House Pets.”
“I resent that,” muttered Sweet Banana Tail, swallowing an ant clump.
“And part Godzilla versus Mothra!” yelled Virginia.
So it was on. The denizens of Bozeman no longer feared being flooded with toxic water and stomped to death by the mighty Lady from Butte, because they would be made famous in the process… with help from the song and dance accompaniment of the Irish Fairies. The producers brandished their cameras – it was showtime.
The drumbeat of stone footsteps grew louder. Darkness fell along Main Street; it wasn’t a thundercloud, it was the massive shadow of Our Lady, now passing the 19th Street interchange, her feet sloshing with poison. Rather than hiding in their basements, Bozeman’s overly recreated came out in their Patagonia hazmat suits, hoping to be on TV.
The Plumber was right: She was a kilometer tall if she was an inch. She approached Main Street, towering above it. Some people screamed. The rock climbers in the crowd desperately searched for their chalk bags and harnesses – opportunities like this didn’t happen every day. It would be Bozeman’s day of darkness; Butte would finally get the respect it deserved.
But the Plumber wasn’t right about everything: Our Lady of the Rockies wasn’t hopping mad. She was concerned.
“That Berkely Pit toxic sludge made my feet itch,” she boomed. “And it’s headed for the North 7th Avenue exit!”
The crowd screamed. Panicking looters broke into Schnee’s and cleared out their stock of irrigation boots.
“No!” boomed Our Lady. “You can be saved!”
“Save us, O Lady!” yelled the crowd.
“I’m not the one to save you. The one who can save you is among you. It’s… Donna Lou deChris!”
A confused murmur went through the crowd. “Who’s she?” someone asked.
“She is an actress,” said Our Lady. “And she will be the true star of this show.”
Donna Lou, who had been moping silently this whole time, suddenly brightened. At last!
“Is she any good?” asked another.
“She sucks,” said Our Lady. “I mean that literally. She has an exceedingly large capacity for air intake… and, hopefully, for toxic Berkeley Pit effluent intake. She is Bozeman’s only hope!”
They all look at her endearingly, Lenny and Virginia and Irwin and Squids and Bottled Stillwater and Sweet Banana Tail and Gary Geek and Patti and the Plumber and the Irish Fairies and the Great Falls Leprechauns and the Gilette Pennywhistle Gang (who had also come to audition) and Irwin’s mom and Bob and Adonai and Jesus and White Buffalo Woman and Shiva and Buddha and St. Patrick and Ullr and Jane and Deputy Max and Cormac McCarthy and Our Lady of the Rockies. They implored: “The show must go on, Donna Lou.”
Donna Lou pondered for a moment. She would have to swallow up the entire contents of the Berkeley Pit. She considered the pros and cons: She’d be famous, but it probably wouldn’t be very good for her complexion.
“I’ll do it!” she said.
The crowd cheered, and carried the exhuberant Donna Lou on their shoulders to the I-90 interchange, just as the toxic stew was bubbling off the exit ramp. “You suck, Donna Lou,” the crowd yelled. “You suck!”
And suck she did. At last, it was her moment in the spotlight – all the auditions, all the humilation was finally paying off… and for something she was naturally good at. She inhaled powerfully, and the toxic pit water was vacuumed straight into her cavernous mouth. As gallon after gallon of the gurgling brew disappeared into Donna Lou’s capacious maw, the crowd held its collective breath.
She had done it!
Donna Lou had sucked the entire Interstate dry, and she mopped the damp asphalt with her unibrow.
Bozeman was saved, Butte made it happen, and it would all be on TV. Both towns erupted in glee and merriment, praising Donna Lou, the Irish Fairies, and Our Lady of the Rockies.
As drunken revelers ascended her flanks to give her big, wet kisses, Our Lady shushed the crowd, for she had one last question before returning to her perch above the Richest Hill on Earth:
“Just what the hell is the screaming panda bit, anyway?’

Thus concludes Foolish Words 2007! Thanks to all 15 local writers who helped put together this gloriously silly and incomprehensible tale. To view the story's complete text (edited and unedited versions), or to inquire about participating in Foolish Words 2008, please visit

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